Reporters Without Borders is appalled by journalist José Roberto Ornelas de Lemos’ murder in Rio de Janeiro state on 11 June (picture). The editor of the Hora H newspaper, he was shot 44 times from a car while visiting a bakery.
The media freedom organization also condemns the way military police treated journalists covering a street protest against bus fare hikes the same day in the city of São Paulo.
Three journalists were arrested during clashes between police and demonstrators on São Paulo’s Paulista Avenue. Two of them – Leandro Machado of the Folha de S. Paulo daily and photographer Leandro Morais of the Universo Online news portal – were charged with obstructing the police and were released after one hour.
But the third, Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira of Portal Aprendiz, was absurdly charged with “forming a criminal gang” and “property damage,” and is still being held.
And a fourth journalist, Fernando Mellis of the R7 news portal, was attacked by members of the military police after watching them hit a demonstrator. One of them used his baton to hit Mellis in the ribs although the reporter had shown them his press badge.
“We call for Ribeiro Nogueira’s immediate release as he is being held for ridiculous reasons,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“These police abuses constitute serious violations of freedom of information. The media play a key role during demonstrations, by reporting demonstrators’ demands, covering the authorities’ response and allowing a debate about the demands to emerge.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “Journalists must not be treated as if they were demonstrators. The police must undertake to respect their neutrality and their physical integrity."
Hail of bullets
Ornelas de Lemos, 45, was murdered in a bakery in Nova Iguaçu, a municipality that is part of the Baixada Fluminense region just to the north of Rio de Janeiro city. He was killed in a hail of bullets fired by four men aboard a car.
His brother, Luciano, said Ornelas de Lemos had received phone threats and had seen suspicious-looking cars loitering in his neighbourhood. The brother thought his death was linked to the newspaper’s frequent outspoken criticism of the police and local politicians.
“We urge the police, who are already investigating the murder, to do everything possible to establish the motive,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They must not rule out the possibility that it was linked to his work as a journalist.”
Since the start of 2013, Ornelas de Lemos is the fourth Brazilian journalist to be the victim of a murder that is probably or definitely connected with their work. Brazil continues to be the western hemisphere’s deadliest country for journalists in 2013.